Business world pays passage to India

The success of a chain of Indian business schools is making the country’s MBA graduates global targets.

Despite the lack of jobs for graduates throughout the world, students at the Indian Institute of Management – Bangalore (IIM-B) and its six associated schools have no shortage of offers.

That is, of course, if they can get in. This year, 240,000 students took the Common Aptitude Test (CAT), the entrance exam for MBA aspirants in India, competing for 2,000 seats in the seven schools. It indicates an acceptance rate of less than 1 per cent, the most competitive in the world.

For the second consecutive year, IIM-B has been ranked as the number one business school in India.

This year’s worldwide business school ranking, released this month by Eduniversal, a unit of the French consultancy SMBG, awarded IIM-B “5 Palmes”, a prestigious recognition accorded to “universal business schools with major international influence”.

The ranking effectively places IIM-B in the top 100 business schools worldwide. The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, was the only other Indian business school that made it on the world’s top 100 list.

Earlier this year, the QS Global 200 business schools survey placed IIM-B among the top 10 preferred business schools in the Asia-Pacific region, reflecting its growing status.

In recent years, thousands of management schools have opened in India, a testimony to the premium that multinational corporations have on Indian talent.

The Indian Institute of Management schools are considered the equal of an Ivy League business school, and as with those institutes the IIMs are fostering prestige by setting a high admissions bar.

But the rewards are there. IIM-B last month attracted more than 150 companies for its summer internship programme, compared with 107 last year. Almost 350 students took 180 “slot zero” internships, the cream offers made in the first two days of placement.

Sixty-four students received international internship offers in the US, Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Sixteen per cent of students were employed in finance and 15 per cent in consulting. The top recruiters included investment banks and consulting firms such as Citibank, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Nomura, Standard Chartered and AT Kearney.

The impressive line-up of companies for the summer internships, a precursor to final placements in March, has raised hopes for a strong recruitment season next year despite the economic slowdown.

“It has been a good season,” says Sapna Aggarwal, the chief of IIM-B’s placement section. “Strong internship placements are an indication that final placements are expected to be stronger than last year.”

In March, 97 companies went to IIM-B for final placements. That number is expected to grow significantly next March, Ms Aggarwal says. Average salaries at IIMs, which fell by as much as 25 per cent in March, are also expected to significantly improve in the next recruitment season.

The strong placements are in sharp contrast to the tightening jobs market for graduates in the West.

A recent survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, an association of leading graduate business schools around the world, showed there were plans to hire only six MBA graduates for each company this year, down from 12 last year.

Seventeen per cent of companies that participated in the survey did not recruit MBA graduates from the class of 2008. And this year the jobs scene is gloomier. Thirty per cent of respondents said they would most likely not hire this year’s graduates.

The job search has been made harder by a lack of open jobs, cutbacks in campus recruitments and competition from more experienced executives laid off recently.

Pankaj Chandra, the director of IIM-B, insists the school’s instruction makes all the difference.

Skills for multi-tasking, flexibility across management functions, cross-cultural experience and emphasis on translating theory into practice sets the school’s students apart, Mr Chandra says.

“We are making several efforts to enhance the quality of learning and impact of our research so that IIM-B remains the preferred management school for students with global aspirations,” he says.

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